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THE VOC

What are Volatile Organic Compounds?

What are Volatile Organic Compounds?

The term Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) refers to a range of carbon-based chemicals. They can be found in vapor or liquid form.

There are various sources of VOC pollution in indoor air: the "occupants" through breathing and body surface, cosmetic products or deodorants, heating devices, cleaning materials and various products (e.g. glues, adhesives, solvents, paints), clothes recently treated in laundries, cigarette smoke and work tools, such as printers and photocopiers.

Other important sources of pollution are building materials and furnishings (e.g., furniture, carpeting, upholstery). High concentrations of VOCs are found in the periods immediately following the installation of the various materials or the installation of furniture.

Emissions of VOCs are highest at the beginning of the product's life and tend to decrease considerably over fairly short periods of time (from one week for paints and adhesives, to six months for other chemical compounds). The exception is formaldehyde, which tends to show relatively constant releases over many years.

Finally, the incorrect positioning of air intakes in proximity to highly polluted areas (e.g. high traffic routes, underground parking lots, garages) can result in significant penetration of VOCs from outside.

What are they?

benzene inquinante

BENZENE

formaldeide inquinante

FORMALDEHYDE

randon sostanza inquinante

RADON

particelle di idrocarburi

HYDROCARBONS

uomo vestito con apposita divisa di protezione elimina l'amianto

ASBESTO

muffa

MUD

particelle di ozono

OZONE

polvere

MICRODUST

monossido che si sprigiona con il gas della cucina

CARBON MONOXIDE

provette di ossidi di zolfo

SULPHUR OXIDES

pentola con fumo che fa uscire biossido di azoto

NITROGEN DIOXIDE

fumo e gas

ACTIVE AND PASSIVE SMOKING

What are they?

benzene inquinante

BENZENE

formaldeide inquinante

FORMALDEHYDE

randon sostanza inquinante

RADON

particelle di idrocarburi

HYDROCARBONS

uomo vestito con apposita divisa di protezione elimina l'amianto

ASBESTO

muffa

MUD

particelle di ozono

OZONE

polvere

MICRODUST

monossido che si sprigiona con il gas della cucina

CARBON MONOXIDE

provette di ossidi di zolfo

SULPHUR OXIDES

pentola con fumo che fa uscire biossido di azoto

NITROGEN DIOXIDE

fumo e gas

ACTIVE AND PASSIVE SMOKING

Measures to reduce exposure

Indoor VOC levels can be controlled by careful selection of building and furnishing materials and cleaning products. Designers, architects and maintenance managers should choose products that are certified to meet health and environmental hygiene requirements and keep abreast of new developments. In particular it is recommended to:

  • Minimise the use of materials containing VOCs (cosmetics, deodorants, cleaning materials, glues, adhesives, solvents, paints).
  • Use water-based paints whenever possible.
  • Use as little glue as possible to fix carpets to the floor, possibly considering alternative solutions.
  • Ventilate rooms adequately when there are possible sources of VOCs (materials containing VOCs, recently treated clothes in laundries, cigarette smoke, printers, photocopiers) and during and immediately after the installation of building materials and furniture.
  • Always keep the rooms well ventilated.
  • Do not smoke in closed rooms.
  • Keep heating devices regularly checked.
  • Use the air extractor with an outlet to the outside when cooking.
  • Have heating systems (boilers, flues, chimneys) regularly checked and cleaned by experienced staff.
  • Any mechanical ventilation systems should be equipped with suitable filters, which should be checked regularly.
ragazza che respira aria proveniente da finestra aperta

Measures to reduce exposure

ragazza che respira aria proveniente da finestra aperta

Indoor VOC levels can be controlled by careful selection of building and furnishing materials and cleaning products. Designers, architects and maintenance managers should choose products that are certified to meet health and environmental hygiene requirements and keep abreast of new developments. In particular it is recommended to:

  • Minimise the use of materials containing VOCs (cosmetics, deodorants, cleaning materials, glues, adhesives, solvents, paints).
  • Use water-based paints whenever possible.
  • Use as little glue as possible to fix carpets to the floor, possibly considering alternative solutions.
  • Ventilate rooms adequately when there are possible sources of VOCs (materials containing VOCs, recently treated clothes in laundries, cigarette smoke, printers, photocopiers) and during and immediately after the installation of building materials and furniture.
  • Always keep the rooms well ventilated.
  • Do not smoke in closed rooms.
  • Keep heating devices regularly checked.
  • Use the air extractor with an outlet to the outside when cooking.
  • Have heating systems (boilers, flues, chimneys) regularly checked and cleaned by experienced staff.
  • Any mechanical ventilation systems should be equipped with suitable filters, which should be checked regularly.

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